Royal Society Publishing

Publishing policy and ethics


This page describes the Royal Society’s publishing policies, and its position on the major ethical principles of academic publishing. We are committed to promoting the highest ethical publication practices across all our journals.

1. Openess

1.1 Authorship

The list of Authors should accurately reflect who carried out the research and who wrote the article. All multi-authored papers should include an ‘Authors’ Contributions’ section at the end of the paper.

  •  The list of Authors should correspond to the following criteria; 1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the version to be published. Authors must meet all three of these conditions.

  • All Authors must meet these criteria for authorship and, conversely, no-one should be omitted from the list if he/she meets these criteria.

  • We will attempt to resolve any disputes of authorship arising after publication if asked to do so. We may consider publishing a correction should this be deemed appropriate.

1.2 Competing interests

All Authors, Referees and Editors must declare any conflicting or competing interests relating to a given article.

Competing interests are defined as those that, through their potential influence on behaviour or content or from perception of such potential influences, could undermine the objectivity, integrity or perceived value of publication.

They may include:

  • Employment – recent, current and anticipated by any organisation that may gain or lose financially through publication
  • Sources of funding – research support by any organisation that may gain or lose financially through publication (see also section 1.3)
  • Personal financial interests –  stocks and shares in companies that may gain or lose financially through publication; consultation fees or other forms of remuneration from organisations that may gain or lose financially; patents or patent applications whose value may be affected by publication
  • Membership of relevant organisations
  • Working or having recently worked in the same institution or department as the authors
  • Having recently (e.g. in the past 3 years) been supervisors, mentors, mentees, close collaborators or joint grant holders with the authors
  • Having a personal relationship with any of the authors

All manuscripts must include a competing interests section. If you have no competing interests please state ‘I/We have no competing interests.

Referees are asked to declare their competing interests when returning their report on a paper.

If an Editor has a competing or conflicting interest preventing them from making an unbiased decision on a manuscript then the Editorial Office will send the manuscript to an alternative Editor for assessment.

1.3 Sources of funding

Funding received for the work described in the paper or for the publication itself, for all authors, must be declared within the publication. Examples of funding are:

  • Research funds – the source and any grant numbers should be included in a funding section at the end of the paper
  • Funding of the article processing charge for an open access article – this should be included in the acknowledgements section
  • Funding for writing, language editing or editorial assistance – this should be included in the acknowledgements section.

Any competing interests must be declared in the paper. Please read the Instructions for Authors for more information.

2. Misconduct and dual publication

2.1 Research misconduct

Research misconduct includes fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

a) Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them

b) Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record

c) Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

The Royal Society is a member of CrossCheck, a multi-publisher initiative to screen published and submitted content for originality.

If misconduct is suspected journal Editors will act in accordance with the relevant COPE guidelines:

Should a full investigation verify misconduct, a response will be sought from the Authors. If this is satisfactory and a mistake or misunderstanding has taken place, the matter can be resolved. If not, the following steps will be taken;

i) The Editors of all the journals concerned will act together and impose a ban on that individual's publication in their journals for an agreed period.

ii) The Editors will also contact the Author's head of department/employer and can choose to contact the Author's funding body and inform them of the misconduct revealed.

iii) In cases of published plagiarism or dual publication, an announcement will be made in both journals explaining the situation, including 'retractions' if work is proven to be fraudulent.

2.2 Dual publication

The Society's journals only consider article submissions which have not been published previously. Conference presentations or posting unrefereed manuscripts on preprint servers such as arXiv, bioRxiv and PeerJ PrePrints are not considered prior publication and are therefore permitted.

It is important to ensure that research work is only published once. If it is published more than once, the scientific literature can be unjustifiably weighted by the appearance that one study has been replicated. It might also mean that the study is inadvertently entered twice into a meta-analysis, for example, or cause problems in systems which use the number of publications to assess an individual’s or an institute’s research output.

There may be situations where previously published work can be included in summary form, but it must be made clear to the Editor on submission that this is the case. Publication of an abstract at a meeting does not preclude later submission of the full article to a Royal Society journal Submissions containing material that has previously formed part of a PhD or other academic thesis which has been published according to the requirements of the institution awarding the qualification can also be considered.

If an article is published and later found to be a duplicate (i.e. has been published before), we will contact the Authors and consider publishing a notice of redundant publication.


3. Research ethics and animal treatment

Articles will be accepted only if they are considered ethically sound in the judgement of the Editor.

  • For experiments involving human subjects, the committee approving the experiments should be identified and the research conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki). The Authors should confirm that informed consent was obtained from all subjects.
  • Authors should include details of animal welfare (such as species, number, gender, age, weight, housing conditions, welfare, training and the fate of the animals at the end of the experiment) and relevant details of steps taken to ameliorate suffering. These details should be included in the Methods section of the article. We strongly encourage all authors to comply with the 'Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments' (ARRIVE) guidelines. These have been developed by NC3Rs to improve standards of reporting to ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully scrutinized and utilized. Relevant information should be included in the appropriate section of the article, as outlined in the ARRIVE guidelines.
  • Articles describing work with animals will be accepted only if the procedures used are clearly described and conform to the legal requirements of the country in which the work was carried out and to all institutional guidelines. A brief statement identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments must be included at the end of the article.
  • Research relating to animal behaviour must follow the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour / Animal Behavior Society Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research (Animal Behaviour, 2006, 71, 245-253) published on the Animal Behaviour website, the legal requirements of the country in which the work was carried out, and all institutional guidelines.
  • Referees are invited to express any ethical concerns regarding animal experimentation, human studies, conservation issues or potential risk of misuse or maltreatment of animals.

4. Editorial standards and processes

4.1 Editorial independence

Editorial independence is respected. The content of Royal Society journals is entirely independent of the Society’s views on any scientific or policy issues. The Editor’s decision is final and will not be influenced or compromised in any way by the Society.

4.2 Peer-review systems

We do all we can to ensure the peer-review process is fair and we aim to minimize bias.

  • All papers submitted to Royal Society research journals are peer-reviewed in a single-blind fashion (Author names are not concealed, but Referee names are).
  • For submissions to the Philosophical Transactions journals, the Guest Editor of the issue manages the review process and is encouraged to seek at least two Referees for each paper.
  • If discussions between an Author, Editor, and Referee have taken place in confidence they will remain in confidence unless explicit consent has been given by all parties or there are exceptional circumstances.
  • Editors or board members are never involved in editorial decisions about their own work and in these cases papers may be referred to other Editors or the Editor-in-chief.

4.3 Appeals

Authors have a right to appeal editorial decisions.

  • The author should submit the grounds for their appeal to the Editorial Office, addressed to the Editor. Authors are discouraged from directly contacting Editorial Board Members and Editors with appeals.

  • Following an appeal, all editorial decisions are final.

  • Editors will mediate all exchanges between Authors and Referees during the peer-review process (i.e. prior to publication). If agreement cannot be reached, Editors may consider inviting comments from additional Referee(s) if appropriate.

4.4 Standards of accuracy

We have a duty to publish corrections or other notifications when errors could affect the interpretation of data or information.

A ‘correction’ is normally used when a small portion of an otherwise reliable publication proves to be misleading. A ‘retraction’ (notification of invalid results) will be issued if work is proven to be fraudulent or as a result of a significant but honest error. Other variants include 'expression of concern' (notification where the validity of the results are in doubt), ‘notice of redundant publication’ (the same work has published in more than one article unnecessarily) and ‘addendum’ (provides additional information or clarification).

Format of notices (correction/retraction/notice of redundant publication/addendum)

  • Notices are written in a way that enables the reader to identify and understand the correction in context with the errors made, why the article is being retracted, or the Editor's concerns about the contents of the article.
  • Notices have their own DOI but are linked electronically with the original electronic publication.
  • They are published in a form that enables indexing and abstracting services to identify and link corrections and retractions.
  • The notice will be published at the end of the latest issue and will appear on the table of contents (TOC).
  • A retraction must be signed by one of the following: the author, the author's legal counsel, the author's sponsoring institution, or the Editor of the journal.
  • A notice of redundant publication will reference both of the duplicate articles.

To remain consistent with the version of record, the original article is not changed or removed, but is clearly marked as corrected/retracted etc.

The Royal Society participates in the CrossMark initiative which identifies the most recent version of an article and alerts readers to notifications such as corrections or retractions.

4.5 Open criticism and debate

We encourage academic debate and constructive criticism of the research published in our journals.

  • We invite Authors to respond to any editorial correspondence before publication. Authors do not have a right to veto unfavorable comments about their work, but they may choose not to respond to criticisms. Any appeals must be dealt with according to 4.3 above.
  • No referee comment or published correspondence may contain a personal attack on any of the Authors. Criticism of the work (not the researcher) is encouraged and Editors should edit (or reject) personal or offensive statements.

5. Data and material sharing

To allow others to verify and build on the work published in Royal Society journals it is a condition of publication that authors make available the data and research materials supporting the results in the article. Our data sharing policies can be found here.


6. Content availability and open access

The Royal Society is committed to the widest possible dissemination of research outputs. We offer the following types of open and free access to our journal articles;

Gold open access:
Through our open access option or Open Biology, authors may have their article made freely available to all, immediately upon publication, by payment of an article processing charge. Such articles are covered by a Creative Commons license allowing redistribution and re-use, and we deposit them in PubMedCentral on the author's behalf.

Green open access:
Authors may deposit a pre-print of their article in a repository at any time or deposit a final, accepted manuscript version (post-print) 12 months after publication of the definitive published version. For definitions of these terms please see the licence to publish.

Delayed free access:
Articles more than 12 months old (biological sciences) and 24 months old (physical sciences) are freely available to all. This excludes articles in the Digital Journal Archive published between 1944 and 2004. For more details please visit this page.

Developing world access:
We are partners in a number of international schemes operated by the UN and WHO to make scientific journal articles available immediately and free of charge to the world's poorest nations. We currently belong to the following schemes: PERii/INASP, HINARI, AGORA and OARE.

Compatibility with funding body requirements:

Our open access policies are fully compliant with the requirements of a range of funders including the Wellcome Trust, NIH, HHMI, MRC, NERC, STFC, ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC.


7. Plagiarism, copyright and intellectual property

A definition of plagiarism from the Office of Research Integrity:

Plagiarism includes both the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another's work. It does not include authorship or credit disputes. The theft or misappropriation of intellectual property includes the unauthorized use of ideas or unique methods obtained by a privileged communication, such as a grant or manuscript review.

7.1 Author conduct and copyright

All Authors are required to agree to our ‘Licence to Publish’ when submitting their work.  By submitting to the Royal Society, and agreeing to this licence, the submitting author agrees on behalf of all authors that:

  • the work is original, has not previously been published and is not currently under consideration for publication elsewhere
  • you have obtained permission to use any material which has been sourced from third parties (e.g. illustrations, photographs, charts or maps), and the terms granted agree with our requirements (whether open access or not)

Authors of non open-access papers retain the copyright, but grant the Royal Society the exclusive right to edit, adapt, translate, publish, reproduce, distribute and display the article in printed, electronic or any other medium and format.

Authors opting for open access publication publish their work under a CC-BY licence, which allows redistribution and reuse, with attribution to the authors.

7.2 Referee conduct and intellectual property

Authors are entitled to expect that Referees or other individuals privy to the work an author submits to a journal will not steal their research ideas or plagiarize their work.

  • We require all Referees to treat submitted material in confidence until it has been published.

  • Any allegations of theft or plagiarism must be substantiated and will be treated seriously.

  • Even if Referee identities are revealed, we will discourage authors from contacting referees directly if misconduct is suspected.

8. Media embargo

The main findings of articles should not have been reported in the mass media prior to publication. We employ a strict embargo policy where the reporting of a scientific article by the media is embargoed until a specific time. Posting of preprints on arXiv, bioRxiv and PeerJ PrePrints is permitted under this policy.